Loaded Language

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly

European budget airline Ryanair caused an uproar in South Africa this week after it required its South African customers to prove their citizenship by taking a written test in Afrikaans, a derivative of the Dutch language developed by European colonists of the country, the Washington Post reported.

Ryanair representatives said the test was created to protect the company from transporting passengers to the United Kingdom on fake passports and visas. The Dublin-based airline added that passengers who cannot complete the test will not be allowed to travel.

The firm noted that airlines that allow passengers to travel on fraudulent documents could be fined up to $2,500 per offense.

But many South Africans, scholars and officials have criticized the policy as “colonial, discriminatory and just unjustified.” Others said that South Africa recognizes 11 official languages, while the UK High Commission in South Africa emphasized the test “is not a UK government requirement.”

Linguistic professor Andries W. Coetzee told the Post that Afrikaans is closely tied to South Africa’s colonial history and the apartheid regime that institutionalized white supremacy from 1948 to 1994.

He added that Afrikaans became an official language in 1925 and to a considerable extent, the language of politics, a position that was strengthened after apartheid was declared the “official political system of the country” in 1948.

But a 2011 census found that less than 14 percent of the population said Afrikaans was their first language, behind IsiZulu (22.7 percent) and IsiXhosa (16 percent).

Not already a subscriber?

If you would like to receive DailyChatter directly to your inbox each morning, subscribe below with a free two-week trial.

Subscribe today

Support journalism that’s independent, non-partisan, and fair.

If you are a student or faculty with a valid school email, you can sign up for a FREE student subscription or faculty subscription.

Questions? Write to us at [email protected].

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.

Copy link